Posts tagged ‘reviews’

The Automatics Group – Auto 17 (Or) 12″

The Automatics Group - Auto 17

The Automatics Group - Auto 17

Another promo! What’s going on here? Well, better not to look a gift horse in the mouth. You keep sending ’em, this here blog will keep reviewing ’em. This one was particularly welcome as the label was good enough to have an actual vinyl copy sent – and because the label in question is Russell Haswell‘s Touch-affiliated boutique operation, Or.

The Automatics Group is Theo Burt and Peter Worth, from York, UK. Auto 17 presents a series of short tracks, produced by recording the raw output from various patches on a vintage analogue synthesizer (an EMS VCS 3, to be precise). Burt and Worth’s background seems to be in in academic composition and audio art, so they don’t take the approach you’d expect from analogue synth twiddlers (who tend to be stoned indie-rock hipsters). Instead of warm, atmospheric drones, this record delivers short bursts of startlingly alien sound.

The approach is distinctly abstract and formalistic. The pieces make no pretense to representing any particular mood or emotion or even to being music, in any recognizable sense. The results are both alienating and invigorating – bound to make the average listener reconsider his/her limited and platitudinous perceptions of what a vintage synthesizer can/should do.

There’s something about this record that recalls an analogue take on the lab-coated digital madness unleashed by first-generation Mego acts like General Magic and Farmers Manual. In the waveform realm, the nearest comparison would be to a severely time-constrained version of Coil’s experiments in time travel.

You can hear for yourself, by downloading this preview. Or you can watch this video of Theo Burt performing Auto 17-style material live…

Then, once you’re suitable impressed, you can buy the vinyl at Forced Exposure.

February 28, 2011 at 9:00 am 4 comments

Nitro Mahalia – Nitro Mahalia (Interstellar Records) LP

Nitro Mahalia - self-titled

Nitro Mahalia - Nitro Mahalia

This here blog doesn’t often get sent promos. But the Bubblegum Cage III’s world famous 800-page constitution specifically states that: “any promo CDs or records the blog does receive will – and indeed must – get reviewed (sooner or later)”. Which is one reason for this review of the debut album by Viennese avant rockers Nitro Mahalia. The other reason is that said album was released by the good people at Interstellar Records, who were responsible for that phenomenal “A Girl & a Gun” 7″ featuring Christian Fennesz.

The Nitro Mahalia sound will be immediately recognizable to fans of John Zorn’s Naked City and Mike Patton’s Fantomas – aggressive virtuosity applied to the aesthetic of cult movie soundtracks. If this self-titled CD doesn’t quite have the impact of those outfits, that’s probably down to the recording, rather than the band itself. Closing track “Ideas are Bulletproof” was recorded live at Vienna’s legendary Rhiz cafe and shows what Nitro Mahalia is truly capable of.

As you might expect from an album of this sort, it’s a mostly instrumental affair. Nevertheless, some of its highlights do come from a handful of appearances from guest vocalists. The new wavy “Victims” (pronounced “wictims”, of course) is particularly charming. It was worth getting sent the promo for this track alone, even if they did send a CDR, rather than the actual vinyl.

Anyone who wants to get a copy of that is advised to purchase it directly from the Interstellar website.

February 25, 2011 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Seefeel – Seefeel (Warp) LP

Seefeel - Seefeel

Seefeel - Seefeel

Well, here it is – the new, self-titled album from re-formed UK post-rock legends Seefeel, featuring a new version of the single “Faults”, as well as the widely-circulated MP3 preview “Dead Guitars”. The advance buzz created by those tracks suggested that Seefeel would either be absolutely phenomenal or a little bit samey. Both tracks implied a new formula at work, mixing slow-motion cyber dub riddims with viciously granulated guitar textures and over-modulated bass charges. A fantastic formula – one that produced thrillingly original and eerily beautiful music – but a formula, all the same.

The full album doesn’t entirely dispel the fears of samey-ness but it does allow listeners to see and hear this formula in its correct context. As with Oval’s O, the limited sound palette may prevent this album from gaining immediate classic status but – frankly – there’s nothing else standing in the way. Aside from anything, the material here is incredibly strong, with Sarah Peacock’s wraith-like (but in no way insubstantial) vocal melodies branding a number of songs indelibly on the listener’s memory.

Perhaps more to the point, Seefeel also features a number of drum-free abstract passages that lend a palpable sense of dynamism to the overall work, preventing any hint of monotony from ever setting in. In fact, this album is probably more varied than the band’s classic debut, Quique, which similarly explored a specific set of processed guitar textures over the length of an entire album. Clearly, this new record is simply an example of Seefeel doing what Seefeel does best. And tracks like “Rip-Run” are as good as anything the band has ever released.

Spoiler alert: there’s very little chance, even at this early stage, that Seefeel won’t be in Bubblegum Cage III’s top ten albums of 2011. It’s that good.

The official release date seems to be January 31st, when you should be able to buy it from Boomkat.

January 29, 2011 at 9:09 pm 6 comments

Post-Rocktoberfest: Seefeel – Faults (Warp) 10″

Seefeel - Faults

Seefeel - Faults

This year’s Post-Rocktoberfestivities were going to a open with a review of One Little Indian’s official re-issue of the Disco Inferno Five EPs bootleg, which was supposed to get released in September. Unfortunately, the street date for that long-awaited compilation has been put back until November (shockingly, with no vinyl edition planned at all!!!)

Well, that makes Seefeel’s Faults EP the most exciting UK post-rock release of the year so far, doesn’t it? Anticipation for this 10″ has been sky-high ever since Warp dropped a streamable preview of the title track. So… does the rest of the EP live up to the promise of “Faults” itself? Well, yes and no.

First of all, the tracks are, in and of themselves, absolutely bloody fantastic. Honestly, this is probably the best material Seefeel has produced since its classic debut album Quique – and yet the new EP doesn’t really sound very much like Quique. In fact, it doesn’t sound very much like anything else, which is precisely why it’s so exciting.

But Faults isn’t actually a very satisfying EP because it’s rather lacking in variety. Really, it’s more of a single. The distinction may seem slight but it is significant. The song names are a bit of a give-away. The track titles on side B (“Folds” and “Clouded”) seem like mispronunciations of the track titles on side A (“Faults” and “Crowded”). It’s a pretty good bet, then, that the second two cuts are remixes of the first two – particularly as fragments of the vocal from “Faults” are clearly audible on “Folds”. In fact, “Crowded” is actually pretty similar to “Faults” – so maybe the last three songs are all remixes of the title track.

Of course some would argue that, just because a record happens to consist of a series of remixes, it doesn’t mean the record won’t work just fine. As Dave put it on the UK Post-Rock Group: “The thing with the ‘remixes’ just reminds me of how Quique is basically a series of variations on one sound… they’ve just changed that sound now!”

Anyway, if anyone could shed light on the precise relationship between these tracks, this here blog would be terribly grateful. The thing is, there’s just enough variety that you can’t be sure about it. “Clouded”, in particular, takes the EP’s glitch-dub formula into an extremely abstract realm – an ear-tricking soundscape of surely-impossible textures.

Which brings us back to the key point: there’s never been anything quite like this. In theory, the elements are all recognizable: digi-dub bass, glitchy beats, dreampop vocals and highly processed guitar. But listing these elements doesn’t really do justice to the intricately wrought sonic material that’s used to build them.

Here’s the kicker, though – because Faults is so brilliant and yet somewhat unsatisfactory as an EP, it really, really leaves you wanting more. Album, please. Sooner rather than later!

October 1, 2010 at 9:00 am 1 comment

Moritz Von Oswald Trio – Live in New York (Honest Jon’s) 2LP+CD

Moritz Von Oswald Trio - Live in New York

Moritz Von Oswald Trio - Live in New York

As one half of Basic Channel/Rhythm & Sound and a co-founder of Berlin’s legendary record-cutting studio Dubplates & Mastering, Moritz Von Oswald is already an electronic music legend. Not one to rest on his laurels, Von Oswald has recently been creating some of most alien and perplexing music of his career in a live, improvising trio with Vladislav Delay and Max Loderbauer.

Live in New York is a high-quality audience recording taken from one of the Trio’s rare public appearances. This particular set extrapolates upon material from the band’s debut album, Vertical Ascent, with a little help from guests Carl Craig and Francois K. The presence of these heavyweight collaborators fleshes out the material a little, making it somewhat more approachable. But this is still startlingly odd stuff. It’s pretty strange, in particular, to hear the New York crowd whooping and cheering along to the group’s extra-terrestrial synth chatter.

Still, the enthusiasm is well earned. With its mechanistic live percussion and stern, dissonant keyboard drones, the Moritz Von Oswald Trio sounds like a malfunctioning cyborg jazz band from a novel Philip K Dick never got around to writing. It always sounds wrong somehow but it never fails to satisfy. Take a listen to this extract and once you’re inevitably convinced that you need to own the whole deluxe 2LP+CD package, go buy it from Forced Exposure.

The Moritz Von Oswald Trio will be playing in Seattle on Sunday, September 26th, as part of the Decibel festival. If you’re there, be sure to do a lot of whooping and cheering. You might end up on the next LP.

August 26, 2010 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Fennesz Mania!

This year, Christian Fennesz has displayed a renewed willingness to collaborate. A decade or so ago, early in his career as a solo electronica artist, Fennesz seemed to be releasing collaborative CDs on an almost weekly basis, documenting various one-off improv configurations. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he made a point of announcing that he would be avoiding such collaborative projects in future, preferring to concentrate on his solo work. FennO’Berg, his ongoing trio with Peter “Pita” Rehberg and Jim O’Rourke, was scheduled to continue but – somewhere along the line – even that fell by the wayside. The 2010 release of In Stereo – the (excellent) third FennO’Berg album – was a welcome surprise, then. Even better, In Stereo has been followed by a handful of other commendable collaborative releases. It’s like the old days – only the quality control seems to be somewhat more stringent.

Actually, this is a simplification of the storyline. Over the last few years, Fennesz has been edging his way back into the fray, with collaborations that have ranged from the unlikely (a live duo with Mike Patton) to the sublime (Till the Old World’s Blown Up & a New One is Created – a glorious trio album with Werner Dafeldecker and Martin Brandlmayr). Still, his 2010 collabs are enjoying a relatively elevated public profile, which may reflect Fennesz’s confidence in their quality or may simply be an upshot of his ever-growing commercial viability.

On - Something That Has Form & Something That Does Not

On - Something That Has Form & Something That Does Not

Something That Has Form & Something That Does Not (Type, LP) is the latest album from On, the duo of Bubblegumcage III favourite Sylvain Chauveau and Steven Hess of Pan American/Labradford. On’s modus operandi is to improvise raw source material, which is then turned over to a third-party producer for transformation into a coherent album. The duo’s previous LP, Your Naked Ghost Comes Back at Night, was produced by Nordic dark ambient overlord Deathprod. This new one is handled by – you guessed it – Christian Fennesz.

It’s a fairly unassuming album, built around some stealthily abstract loops, which occasionally cohere into rather surprising, jazzy rhythms. What Something That Has Form… lacks in impact, it more than makes up for in charm. The music here emits a subtle magnetic attraction; an almost subliminal hypnotic power that recalls Jan Jelinek’s excellent Kosmicher Pitch album. It’s one of those LPs you’ll keep coming back to, almost without realising how into it you really are. Definitely worth heading right over to Forced Exposure to order a copy – particularly as the vinyl is limited to 500 units. If you’re not yet convinced, you can stream the whole album via the Type website.

Fennesz Daniell Buck - Knoxville

Fennesz Daniell Buck - Knoxville

Knoxville (Thrill Jockey, LP) is a live album recorded at Tennessee’s Big Ears festival. It pits Fennesz’s laptop against drums courtesy of Tony Buck from The Necks and the guitar of one David Daniell. This is a rather more strident venture than the On LP but – perhaps by the same token – a slightly less satisfying one. Like the aforementioned trio album with Dafeldecker and Brandlmayr, Knoxville mixes free improvisation with epic post-rock. But – in that trio – Fennesz was matched by players who shared his natural diffidence and hesitancy. Here, the jazzy drums and chiming guitar often threaten to drown out Fennesz’s subtle digital atmospherics. Knoxville is a fundamentally satisfying, often beautiful album – it just needz moar Fennesz.

Hmmm… Having said that, perhaps some of those guitar parts are Fennesz. Probably a good sign that it’s hard to tell. Oh and on the album’s standout track – “Antonia”–  he really gets to shine. All told, then, Knoxville is another essential purchase for Fennesz fans.  It’ll be released by Thrill Jockey on August 24th.

There’s more! Don’t sleep on that Oneohtrix Point Never remix featuring Antony (he of the Johnsons) – it’s phenomenal! And if you live in North America, do whatever you can to see the great man on his continent-wide tour this autumn.

August 18, 2010 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

Oval – Ringtones (Thrill Jockey) download

Oval - Ringtones

Oval - Ringtones

As previously mentioned, Markus Popp – aka Oval – has decided to follow up his comeback 12″, Oh, with a free download EP, cheekily titled Ringtones. The two sides of Oh were very clearly compartmentalized, with side A featuring Oval’s most conventionally “musical” material to date and side B presenting some of the raw materials used in the construction of these surprisingly beat-driven tunes. Apparently, the upcoming 2CD album, O, will use a similar structure.

Although the tracks on Oh’s B side are exceptionally brief, they feel satisfyingly like a logical development of the classic Oval sound. The side A tracks are highly enjoyable too but there’s a sense that Popp’s musical personality is being lost in the quest to make his tracks musical and give them personality. Therefore, long-term Oval fans are likely to find the shorter, more abstract pieces – which Popp has dubbed “ringtones” – more nourishing.

As the title suggests, the Ringtones MP3 EP consists of a few more of these abstract sketches. One might reasonably speculate this release is Popp’s acknowledgement that his rawer tracks are actually more musically satisfying. It seems more likely, though, that he’s simply feeling generous after holding out on his public for around a decade – he probably just wants to release as much stuff as possible.

In any case, Ringtones features eight pieces plus a bonus track available exclusively through FACT magazine. The whole thing lasts only nine minutes, which means that the EP would probably make a pretty kick-ass 7″, if Thrill Jockey chose to get it pressed up. The pieces themselves are even rawer (and perhaps, for that very reason, even more satisfying) than the building blocks presented on the B-side of Oh. Song titles like “Tapasbar” and “Candyplex” do a great deal to evoke the whimsical nature of the music, which is modestly but deeply beguiling.

Despite its apparently throw-away nature, Ringtones is absolutely essential listening for Oval fans everywhere. Go download it from Thrill Jockey.

August 6, 2010 at 9:00 am 5 comments

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